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Aug 2, 2008 08:32 PM

The deli that time forgot...

Help me please, Chicago Chowhounders:

More than 20 years ago I was a summer intern at the law firm of Bell, Boyd & Lloyd (70 W. Madison). 20 years is a long time ago and I've never been back to Chicago since (nor did I become a lawyer!). But I'm going back now, and here's my quest:

Does anyone remember/know of an old timey deli that used to be just a block or two away from BB&L back then (late 80s)? The funny thing about this place was that it wasn't on the ground level. You went upstairs and it was this huge bustling lunchroom. I think I recall a huge central counter, but that could be wrong. Tons of tables, very noisy, bowls of pickles on the table, great matzo ball soup, or at least I thought so at the time (I've since spent 20 years in NYC so my standards may be different today).

It was the most interesting, most atmospheric place, and as these things go, it probably doesn't exist anymore or has since become a Starbucks, right? But maybe it still does??

Anyway, if this rings a bell with anyone, PLEASE let me know!

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  1. Was it the sandwich place in the Opera House 20 N Wacker it was I think on the 7th floor -- I forget the name but the food was excellent and always packed - if this is the place it no longer

    1. I believe that you are referring to the restaurant in the Maller's building on Wabash.

      1. Are you thinking of Maller's Deli on the 3rs floor of the Maller's Bldng? Sadly, long gone.The closest you're going to get to a Jewish eatery that time forgot is Manny's. More of a Jewish cafeteria than a NYC deli, but worth a detour nevertheless.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jbw

          At least as of a few months ago (last time I had lunch there), the restaurant was still there.

          1. re: markh

            The restaurant is still there (altho it's opened and closed several times in the last few decades), but the Maller's of chopped-chicken-liver-platter, matzoh-ball-soup fame is, alas, long gone.

        2. Oh dear, I think it WAS Maller's. I looked it up on the map and it's just the right distance from BB&L. Tragic. I remember that place like an incredible movie. WHY do places like that close? Was I the only one who loved it? It was so busy and bustling, no?

          Okay, trying to get over disappointment, give me a second...

          All righty then. Let's carry on. If I can't visit old haunts, I can at least avoid new disappointments. We'll be staying at the Hilton on Michigan and probably not straying far from. No time or opportunity for fancy eats, as we'll have our 1 y.o. and 4 y.o. with us. So what's fast, easy, close, & cheap and still excellent?

          I see Russian Tea Time and Miller's Pub. Any good?
          Is this like the equivalent of trying to get a decent family meal in midtown Manhattan?
          I remember Ed Debevic's & the like being tourist traps even 20 years ago, so want to avoid them like death.

          Thanks so much for your input...

          10 Replies
          1. re: KCyumyum

            If you want to bring back memories, you might want to try Heaven on Seven (in the Garland Building) for weekday breakfast or lunch (breakfast might be the better alternative w/ kids, since it can get very crowded at lunch--open on Sat, but check the hours). Sort of a cajun Maller's if you can imagine that.

            1. re: KCyumyum

              For lunch try the Corner Bakery - good salads, sandwiches and desserts- at corner of Jackson and Michigan. Open 7 days. If you are there on a weekday, for lunch you can try the large cafeteria in the basement of 55 E. Monroe. Many choices. Also, for dinner, there are now many restaurants on Wabash south of Roosevelt Road. They are good and some are not too expensive. If you go early (6 p.m.) you could probably take children - Opera, Gioco. Also, think there are some sushi restaurants on Wabash and on Michigan between Congress and Roosevelt.
              Also, check out this article on south loop restaurants that would be near the Hilton. I don't know the date of it but it is fairly recent Also you could try Ada's Famous Deli at 14 S. Wabash. It is not NY deli food but does have things like chopped liver, tongue, etc. Also for lunch try the 7th floor of Marshall Fields (now Macy's) which has many choices. Also the basement of Marshall Fields (macy's) with many choices.

              1. re: KCyumyum

                Russian Tea Time is good although I cannot recall ever seeing children there (but I mainly go for lunch). I can't speak to Miller's although it has its partisans on this board.

                As Holly mentions, there is a sushi/ Japanese restaurant, calledy Oysy, that is a few blocks south of the Hilton on Michigan Ave.; reasonably priced and good.

                If you have your heart set on Jewish style delis, the Hilton is near 2, but neither will compare that favorably with NY. As JBW mentions, there is Manny's which is on Jefferson, slightly north of Roosevelt
                Closer to the Hilton is 11 City Diner, at 11th St. & Wabash:, which in addition to deli offerings serves breakfast all day. This would be a comfortable place with your children.

                You also are a close cab ride (5 minutes) to Chinatown. A very comfortable place for a family meal. My favorite is Moon Palace.

                I'd also recommend Greek Town for inexpensive, good food with a family. You are at most 10 minutes away by cab from the Hilton.

                Also near Greek Town, at Morgan & Washington, is Wishbone -- a southern comfort food, Cajun restaurant that is inexpensive and family friendly.

                1. re: masha

                  Thanks all for the recommendations. I do remember great meals in Greek Town, but we'll to stay within walking distance, as there will also be an 87-y.o. great-grandmother who's meeting us there. Thanks for all the links, guys. Love the reader article and 11city looks great. The bagel & fish plate looks yum! Oh and I forgot about Chicago style hotdogs... used to love Portillos.

                  1. re: KCyumyum

                    By the way, if you want to treat Grandma and the kids to some good gelati, stop by Canady's, just down the street from the Hilton (and actually on the way to 11 City). The marscapone and grapefruit are my favorites. Also a good place to pick up some artisanal chocolates for the folks back home:


                    As far as 11City is concerned, it's fine as long as you don't go there with huge expectations. More of a modern diner with deli items than an iconic NYC deli. A good place for breakfast as well as lunch, and their tuna melts are also fine.

                    If you're fond of heavy duty-sweet/pancakes-eggs/benedict kinds of breakfasts, Bongo Room is a little bit further down the block at Roosevelt/Wabash, also family-friendly, but crowds line up for breakfast on the weekends.

                2. re: KCyumyum

                  Miller's Pub is still great. They finally put the ribs appetizer on the menu, so it's no longer a secret. The bartenders have been there forever and know how to make a martini. Love it.

                  1. re: sis2catbat

                    11City is not that great...probably quite disappointing to those who are accustomed to New York standards, There's The Bagel located on Broadway (definitely a $12 cab ride from the Hilton)...the food is passable, the experience pretty pleasant. Ashkenaz' Deli is very good BUT doesn't have many tables (like three- not realistic for a family to eat there but then again...). There's The Grand Lux, right off of Michigan Avenue- it's step above the Cheesecake Factory...(actually, I think it's run by the former corporate management team from the Cheesecake factory- I don't know...I haven't been following up on it...)...pretty good food, decent valiue, very kid friendly and beware, the place is a mad-house during peak times. Definitely a fun place to check out- kids and adults love it.

                    1. re: pickyfoodhunter

                      i agree, don't go to 11 city diner. they may have a few good things, but they also have some reeeaaally bad stuff, so luck is not on your side. And service is lacking.

                      1. re: kiwi

                        Note that the OP is looking for restaurants within easy walk of the Hilton & Towers. For example, he specifically said that restaurants in Greek Town were too far away. I agree that 11 City's deli offerings are just mediocre. But, if you treat it like a diner, and stick to things like omelets or a club sandwich you can do okay. Given the geographic limits he has imposed, and the request for a restaurant that is family friendly, I think that it is worth consideration.

                        1. re: masha

                          OP said:
                          "I can at least avoid new disappointments."
                          " So what's fast, easy, close, & cheap and still excellent?"

                          Two okay menu items just don't warrant a recommendation.